Ryanair has announced it is ditching the majority of its flights from Manchester Airport, blaming a dispute over landing charges.
The budget airline says it will switch or close nine of its current 10 Manchester routes to competitor airports from the 1 October, resulting in the loss of 44 weekly flights, 600,000 passengers and 600 local jobs.
Ryanair blames Manchester Airport for the decision, claiming it refused to lower its landing charges. As a result, routes from the city to Barcelona, Bremen, Brussels, Cagliari, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Marseille, Milan and Shannon will cease from 1 October.
Some routes will be switched to regional airports in Leeds, Liverpool, Bradford and the East Midlands.
“Ryanair continues to lower fares to encourage travel, but with passengers paying lower fares airports must lower their charges – particularly high cost airports like Manchester, London Stansted and Dublin,” says Stephen McNamara, spokesman for Ryanair.
The airline has already made a 40% cutbacks in the number of flights from Stansted because of landing charges disputes; from October, just 24 planes will operate from the airport, down from 28 last winter and 40 this summer.
Ryanair says it will email passengers affected by the latest change offering them either a full refund or the alternative of flying to some destinations from competing airports in the East Midlands, Leeds, Bradford and Liverpool.
The dispute between the airline and the airport allegedly arose after Ryanair offered Manchester 28 new flights a week, carrying 400,000 new passengers and creating 400 new jobs. However, Ryanair claims Manchester refused to lower its charges and rejected the offer.
But Manchester Airport has defended its charges.
A spokesperson says: “Not withstanding all of our investment in Manchester Airport including during the current recession, we don’t believe that charges as low as £3 per passenger are unreasonable. Clearly, Ryanair does and that’s regrettable. We’ve consistently cut our charges for the last 15 years even when faced with increased costs such as security.”
Airlines have to pay landing charges at airports, and these continue to be one of Ryanair's biggest costs. In its financial results for the first three months of 2009, the airline slammed such charges and accused the government and British Airport Authority (BAA) of damaging tourism.
"The dramatic decline in Britain’s traffic and tourism figures is directly due to the British government’s £10 air passenger duty tax and the BAA’s high airport charges," it said in the results. "We again call on the Irish and British governments to follow the more sensible leads of the Belgian, Dutch, Greek and Spanish governments, all of whom have recently scrapped tourist taxes and have reduced airport charges, in some cases to zero, in order to stimulate tourism."